His Dark Materials

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Fantasy trilogy by Philip Pullman.

Pre-teen Lyra Belacqua lives in an alternate, Gaslamp Fantasy world (Zeppelins!) in which people's souls live outside their bodies in the form of Daemons, which take on animal forms according to the person's personality. She leaves her life as a wild child roaming Jordan College to go on a quest to save her best friend who has been kidnapped.

Lyra encounters a boy from our world named Will Parry, and the two of them find themselves involved in a war involving all worlds that will change the very fate of The Multiverse and all who live in it...

This has proven to be a fairly polarizing series. For some, the author seems to be constantly railing against religion, and in the third book they claim that message bursts out of the plot's chest and devours it. Others argue that this angle is at least handled much more tastefully than other series with similar tendencies. For many fans, the series is really more about a breathtaking dimension-hopping odyssey that turns into a fist-pumping ode to The Power of Love. Also it is hard to dispute the quality of the writing.The series was critically very well received in Pullman's native England.

And a Badass Armored Polar Bear Warrior King. Can't forget him.

As a point of clarification, the first book was retitled The Golden Compass for its release in the states, and in many places is better known under this title than as Northern Lights. For the film adaptation, see The Golden Compass.

Books two and three are titled The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, respectively. Philip Pullman has more recently written two spin-off works: a sequel, Lyra's Oxford and a prequel, Once Upon a Time in the North.

Now has a character page, which desperately needs work.


Tropes used in His Dark Materials include:


A-H[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade - The subtle knife. It can cut through the universe. Lyra speculates that the same materials from the subtle knife were likely used to make the guillotine of the intercision machine that can cut through the psychic connection between human and daemon.
  • Action Girl - Interestingly, Lyra swings through Chickification once Will enters the story in the second book but recovers about halfway through the third book.
  • Adaptation Expansion - Although otherwise a rather Compressed Adaptation, the stage play included a new character, a priest who worked for the Magisterium but manifested more the church's good side.
  • Aerith and Bob - If Lord Asriel versus Mrs. Coulter isn't enough, you can also get the effect as a kind of Bilingual Bonus, due to the use of Scandinavian and Finnish names. For example, if you're Finnish, the surname of the witch Serafina Pekkala sounds extremely mundane, especially compared to her first name (Pullman found the name in a Helsinki phonebook). The fact that there are many different cultures involved explains most of the variation, but not examples like the above.
  • All There in the Manual - Unusually for a work of literature. Some significant back story and detail about the series' Multiverse can be found on the official websites, interviews with the author, and two spin-off novellas: Lyra's Oxford is a sequel and Once Upon a Time in the North is a prequel, and both books contain maps, brochures, and other fun world-building ephemera. Additionally, we've been teased something called The Book of Dust, which promises to address some of the things we've brought up in both It Just Bugs Me and Wild Mass Guessing, for ages now.
  • Amazon Brigade - The witches form exclusively female clans, they're deadly shots with bow and arrow, are good with knives, are quick to swear vengeance; and they attach themselves as a bodyguard to the protagonists.
  • Anatomy of the Soul - The Soul, Mind, Body division. See that trope's page.
    • Though at one point the characters speculate about whether it's even more complicated in some universes.
      • Turns out it is. In the land of the dead, all mortals are accompanied by their "death" from cradle to grave.
  • Animal Stereotypes - Justified with the Dæmons. They eventually "settle" on an animal form that best reflects their counterpart's personality. The fact that some of the animal symbolism used is ridiculously obscure (anyone who tells you they knew right away what the Alpine Chough symbolized is a damn liar or a PhD in literature) is just an example of how hard the author thought about this.
    • In case you don't feel like digging it up: in Paradise Lost, an Alpine Chough is Satan's final form.
  • Anti-Advice - At the end of Northern Lights, Lyra and Patalaimon reason that if villains like Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel want to suppress or destroy the Dust, it must actually be good.
  • Anticlimax - For some. For others, the scene in question is a terrific subversion of typical fantastic fiction. Asriel's rebellion, the war that will change the very structure of the Multiverse, is ultimately treated as an irritating distraction as Will and Lyra frantically search for their missing Dæmons.
    • Further, the stated Big Bad, God, is revealed to have aged to such a state of extreme senility and fragility that he is eventually killed by a stiff breeze, because of two kids, and not even on purpose. Seriously. Fortunately for the story, his Dragon, the Metatron, takes on the mantle of prime villain.
    • Albeit, Metatron gets punked by a monkey so . . .
      • A badass evil monkey, universally feared, a snow leopard and two full grown humans
  • The Anti-Nihilist - the books eventually come down in favor of this, with a touch of Fantastic Aesop courtesy of Dust. God doesn't give the world meaning, Dust does. Dust is human endeavor, knowledge, curiosity, etc., ergo...
  • Anyone Can Die - Roger Parslow, Lee Scoresby, John Parry, Lord Asriel, Marisa Coulter, and GOD.
  • Army of the Dead - When Will and Lyra emerge from the Land of the Dead, the spirits of various dead characters and other onetime warriors join the battle between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Republic of Heaven on the side of the Republic, countering the Spectres who had until then been consuming souls unchecked.
  • Audio Adaptation - Two, a radio dramatisation and a full-cast unabridged recording narrated by Pullman.
  • Author Tract - Especially the third book.
  • Badass Bookworm - Mrs. Coulter: Arctic explorer, a rare female Scholar (graduate from an Oxford college), author of at least one respected travelogue, and inventor of a device that severs the soul from the body.
  • Badass Normal - While Dust is responsible for human and mulefa civilisation (and both species show up as ghosts in the land of the dead), there are no references to the Panserbjørne getting any such assistance. Plus, they forge their own souls.
  • Bamboo Technology - Lord Asriel requires a special emulsion, prepared in a laboratory, to see Dust in a photograph. Mary Malone makes a spyglass to see Dust out of bamboo, hardened lacquer, and seedpod oil. Later, this is justified. The seedpods in question come from some very strange trees.
  • Because Destiny Says So - Subverted in a way; in order for Lyra to fulfill the prophesy, she can never be told what she's supposed to do.
  • Big Bad Metatron, although aside from his first impressive entrance, where the entire world is screaming, he gets taken out pretty easily by two humans and their pets.
  • Bittersweet Ending - Oh yeah. Lyra and Will changed the very foundations of the Multiverse, but only those who were directly involved notice. Furthermore, they must return to their own respective Worlds forever (never to see each other again), moments after they've realised their passionate love for each other. Some have argued that this last twist crosses into Diabolus Ex Machina. The "good" angels could have solved this by teaching them how to cross worlds, but instead decide not to share.
    • Well, at least until they die.
      • It's implied that it might be possible for them to reconnect, but it's discouraged by just about everyone
  • Blessed with Suck - Will Parry is given the Subtle Knife, which can slice through the barriers between worlds. It also mutilated his left hand, and every time he uses it, he creates a hole into which Dust drains out of the world, and another Spectre is unleashed.
  • Broken Aesop - Pullman is mostly trying to criticize the Catholic Church...but by the end of the series its been twisted so much he's turned his "Catholic Church" into what is essentially Gnosticism. Fans argue that Pullman's target is not any one institution but instead general zealousness and dogmatism, with the Church just being his whipping boy because, well, they're a handy example.
    • The universe as a WHOLE is somewhat gnostic, though the Monad is a bit absent, but the Church itself supports the demiurge.
  • Card-Carrying Villain - There is a priest in the third book who is sent out to assassinate Lyra, preventing her from altering the 'verse. For his next trick, said priest wants to convince the mulefa that their primary method of transportation is sinful -- for no apparent reason -- and then sides with their enemies, who then follow his every command because, come on, he's evil.
  • Cessation of Existence - befalls Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel, although they manage to take the Metatron with them.
  • Chekhov MIA - Will's father.
  • Challenging the Chief: Lyra's skills of persuasion are so good she manages to arrange a Challenging the Chief fight between current Panserbjørne king Iofur Raknisson and outcast / part-time usurped rightful king Iorek Byrnison despite the fact that Panserbjørne are apparently the only Noble Warrior Race in fiction with no tradition of this sort of promotion to kingship by combat whatsoever! And to top it off, it's supposed to be literally impossible to lie to, or even bluff, a Panserbjørne.
    • It's not so much that the panserbjørne don't have such a tradition; clearly they do, for the combat between Iorek & Iofur has a set ritual. It's that Iorek cannot challenge Iofur because he, Iorek, is in exile for killing his father. What Lyra does is manipulate Iofur into challenging Iorek.
    • It gets cooler: it’s made clear any outcast wandering into the city for any reason, let alone to challenge the king gets shot with Fire-hurlers. Lyra talked them into a Klingon Promotion fight when they would normally kill Iorek on sight! That’s how good she is!
  • Character Filibuster - When Dr. Mary Malone, physicist, explains why she quit being a nun and decided there was no God.
  • Chastity Couple: Balthamos and Baruch.
  • Children Are Innocent - The very soul and fiber of this work is about averting this trope. Although whether this is a aversion or playing it straight probably depends on your definition of innocence.
    • It seems to go back and forth. The children of Oxford are very mischievous are repeatedly given pejorative descriptions; though the tone reinforces this trope. Later, though, children are downright malicious when they find out about Elaine Perry's mental illness. Even later, the children of Citigazze actually attempt to murder Will and Lyra.
  • Christianity Is Catholic - In Lyra's world John Calvin, instead of being excommunicated, somehow was elected Pope, and then abolished the Papacy upon his death. Thus, the Protestant Reformation never happened, leaving a Church that has unquestioned power over all of Europe. The trope applies, however, not because only Catholicism exists in Lyra's world but because what is meant to parallel Christianity only parallels Catholicism with no attempt to differentiate.
  • Combat by Champion - Metatron identifies Coulter as a woman whose entire life is based on betrayal, yet he willingly goes alone with her to ambush Lord Asriel instead of sending a legion of mooks. Asriel, meanwhile, plans this elaborate setup to catch and kill Metatron but decides to spring the trap on the ruler of the multiverse with only himself instead of with a platoon of heavies. To top it off, they both go unarmed (although there is probably a different trope for this)
  • Coming of Age Story - Taken to the point of metaphysics. There are fundamental magical differences between children and adults, and the process of growing up drives many aspects of the plot.
  • Compressed Adaptation - The stage play. Three books into two nights, and they combined the characters of Mary Malone and Serafina Pekkala, as well as never revealing Will's daemon.
  • Consummate Liar - Lyra.
  • Corrupt Church: The entire series is a war on a church that doesn't follow its own teachings and uses its power and authority to ruthlessly persecute those who challenge it.
  • Cosmic Horror - The Spectres (see The Heartless below)
  • Darker and Edgier - The third book, specifically. While the first book was more of a standard coming of age fantasy, the third part spirals into some heavier stuff.
  • Dark Is Not Evil - The dæmons, mostly because they represent free will and the church is against it. Also some angels like Baruch and Balthamos can only be seen when there's little to no light, while the harpies and the other things from the Land of the Dead are morally neutral.
  • Death by Falling Over - The intruder in Will's house falls down the stairs. Will blames himself though.
  • Death of the Author - Interviews with Philip Pullman show that this is his view of how his books should be regarded ("I don't think it's the task of the author of a book to tell the reader what it means.")
  • Departure Means Death - Staying outside your own universe too long will cause you to get sick and die eventually.
  • Deus Ex Machina - The Intention Craft; then again that's what it was built for.
  • Deuteragonist - Will.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina - Inarguable in the first book. Also the third, for some (see Bittersweet Ending above).
  • Dub Name Change - Lyra Silvertongue becomes Lyra Sirin in Russian translation.
    • Also, Lyra Listenreich in German.
      • "-reich" in this context means "to be rich of" or simply "-full" so it translates into "cunningfull", her German name though sounds a little off because of the missing article, so "Lyra die Listenreiche" wouldve a better ring to it but YMMW.
    • In French, it is translated to Lyra Parledor. (they switched silver for gold, basically).
      • Possibly because argent, the French word for silver, is also the word for money. Lyra Moneytongue sounds a bit weird.
  • Empathy Pet: Although it would be in the worst taste to refer to someone's Dæmon as a "pet", they do serve a similar purpose - and more.
  • Empty Shell: What happens when a Specter gets you. Also what happens to people whose daemons are removed. In fact, that's pretty much the same thing.
  • Enfant Terrible: The children of Cittàgazze. Justified in that, between the specters and having no adults around, they must be living in fear.
  • Everything's Better With Bears -- the armored bears. 'Nuff said.
  • Expospeak: Noted for its lack of any Exposition. In fact, first time readers of Northern Lights might find themselves confused as hell about the various terminology (demons/daemons as man's best friend? For real?) and why the North pole is said to be populated by head shrinkers and talking polar bears. Until it hits you that the world of His Dark Materials is a very different one from ours.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Angels fall in love with each other, but they don't seem to differentiate much between genders. Being as they barely have bodies to begin with, this is hardly surprising.
    • Actually, it's strongly implied that Metatron is highly homophobic, and Baruch's homosexuality was a driving force in his being disowned by his family, and also possibly a factor in his and Barthalmos's getting kicked out of heaven.
  • Fantastic Romance
  • Fate Worse Than Death - Falling into the Abyss.
  • Femme Fatale - Ms. Coulter. She even seduces God! Well, okay, he wasn't quite God, but he was the acting equivalent.
  • Furry Confusion - Aside from some odd moments involving the Dæmons and their interactions with real animals, there is a scene early on where Mrs. Coulter tells Lyra that it isn't safe to eat polar bear liver, but the rest of the animal is edible. Unless there are non-Panserbjørne polar bears (we never see any), this raises some very awkward questions...
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Lord Asriel, Lee Scoresby, Stanislaus Grumman and others.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar - The books has been protested less than Harry Potter despite that fact that God turns out to be a hoax, or at least how he is commonly portrayed. This may have something to do with how popular Harry Potter is compared to His Dark Materials
  • God - Well, sort of. In actuality, "The Authority" is the oldest of the Angels, and claims to have created the universe. It is heavily implied that God is a far more abstract presence that manifests, in the various worlds, as "Dust".
  • God Guise: This is how the angels created the Abrahamic religions. The first of them all convinced the ones that were born after that he was the supreme creator and being, and so he came to rule them. Later, when the rebel angels gave sentience to mankind and other races, all he had to do was to send his agents and see the awestruck people convert to his cause.
    • The witches in Lyra's world worship deities based on our Finnish mythology, but no indication about their nature is present. One of said witches does, however, kill the false gods that a human tribe worshipped - tigers.
  • God Is Evil - Well, "The Authority" isn't evil, just senile. He's supplanted by Metatron, though, who does have totalitarian plans for the multiverse. In his prime it seems the Authority was something of a Jerkass too, but when you're the first sentient thing in the universe perhaps you really are Above Good and Evil, or at least can't be blamed for thinking you are.
    • "The Authority" isn't currently evil. It's stated though that he wasn't the creator, just the oldest angel, yet presents himself to everyone as the creator. Metatron was his second in command and took over as "The Authority" became senile
  • Growing Up Sucks:
    • Subverted; In the first book, the antagonists believe that Growing Up Sucks, and do truly horrifying things because of it. Including "severing" children's souls from their bodies..
    • Later played very straight in Cittagazze due to the Spectres.
  • Guile Heroine: Lyra
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Lyra is able to read her alethiometer right after picking it up; other characters note that alethiometer-reading is supposed to be extremely difficult and suited to scholars. Later subverted; once the adventure is over, Lyra suddenly loses her talent because . . . well . . . just because. However, she is told that if she wants to, she can take the route of hard work to learn the skill back, and will have a better understanding of the alethiometer's answers for it.
    • This is probably intended to be symbolic of the changes in how a person perceives the world as a child and an adult. Children can be good at reading people's moods instinctively without fully appreciating all the undertones in any given social situation. Adults may be more uncertain because they are aware of more.
  • The Heartless - Rather nastily subverted by the Spectres, phantoms who feed on the souls of adults. One of the few adults in the curious world of Cittagazze is fairly certain that they were sent to their world as a punishment specifically for using the Subtle Knife to rob from other worlds. And then we learn that the Spectres are more like a completely amoral Cosmic Horror, and that they are simply entering whenever a dimensional window is openned by the knife. This, of course, means that Will, who has been using the Knife for good, has been letting them invade as well.
  • Heel Face Revolving Door Mrs. Coulter
  • Heroic Sacrifice - Lord Asriel and Ms. Coulter both sacrifice themselves to drag Metatron down into a bottomless pit - the bittersweet end to Ms. Coulter's Heel Face Turn.
    • Lee Scoresby and Hester while holding off the tartars. Which definitely doubles as a Tear Jerker.
  • Hero Secret Service - Nearly every group of supporting characters that the heroes have befriended at some point. In particular, the Witches and the Angels.
  • Honor Before Reason - Lyra deliberately abandoned her own soul in the World of the Dead, so that she could make amends to a friend that she unwittingly led to his death.
  • Humans Are Special: Even though angels can live forever, travel between worlds, and know the secrets of the universe, they envy human beings, who have real bodies and thus can enjoy the physical world in ways that angels can't. Also, most humans can physically overpower a low-to-mid-ranking angel (Will tackles one and is astonished at how weak it is.)
  • Humans Are Ugly - The mulefa can't help but think of Mary as hideous, even when they've adopted her and learned from her.


I-P[edit | hide]

  • I Am Not Left-Handed - Iorek, in his fight with Iofur in the first book.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming - The rename to Golden Compass gives all three books titles referring to an artifact introduced in that book.
  • In Spite of a Nail - Lyra's world has visible souls and at least five species (humans, witches, bears, cliff-ghasts and foxes) with some level of sentience, but every religious figure from Moses to John Calvin still existed in modified roles.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: Will's knife as well as Asriel's Powered by a Forsaken Child gate.
  • I Thought It Was Forbidden - Touching someone else's dæmon. Then again, it could be argued that Lyra's innocent view of the world saw the act of touching someone's dæmon as much, much rarer than it is in practice. Could be Getting Crap Past the Radar as a metaphor for sex, or perhaps a case of It's Okay If It's You.
  • Invisible to Adults - Inverted with The Spectres, who only adults can see.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - One of the best uses yet and another example of just how much thought the author put into Lyra's world. (Lee Scoresby is described as a New Dane from the country of Texas for starters.)
  • Jaw Breaker: Iorek tears his rival's jaw off. Symbolic, because the other was a liar.
  • Jerkass: Lord Asriel
  • Lady of Adventure: Mrs. Coulter
  • Leave Him to Me: Subverted. The Panserbjørne approach to banished bears returning to challenge the King to single combat is remarkably Genre Savvy: Kill them with fire hurlers from a great distance. As a result it takes Lyra a great deal of manipulation to get the Challenging the Chief duel to ever happen
  • Light Is Not Good: Mrs. Coulter is physically attractive, glamourous and charming but is capable of terrible things, so it's difficult to sympathise with her until the last book. Angels are made of light (well, some kind of energy anyway), but their moral nature is just as uneven as humans'.
  • Like a Badass Out of Hell - Lee and Grumman
  • Lilliputian Warriors - The Gallivespians.
  • Literal Metaphor - Played with when Will takes on his father's mantle.
  • Literary Allusion Title - Both "His Dark Materials" and "The Golden Compass" are quotes from Paradise Lost.
    • Technically, "the golden compasses" (referring to a "pair of compasses" as in the geometric instrument, rather than the navigation tool).
  • Little Miss Badass - Lyra
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Locked Out of the Loop - Lyra
  • Lost Technology - The Alethiometer. Only a few were built to start with and most were promptly destroyed. Lyra's is one of the last few (another two are operated by opposing parties).
  • Luke, I Am Your Father Lord Asriel is Lyra's father, while Mrs. Coulter is Lyra's mother.
    • And Stanislaus Grumman is Will's long lost father John Parry.
  • Mind Rape - What a human feels when his/her daemon is touched (violently) by a stranger, comes close to actual rape.
  • Minovsky Physics - Rusakov Particles appear to be as such for the first two novels. For a Biblical pun, it's also called Dust. Dust, an "elementary particle" (similar to an electron or quark) can only be seen either when vast quantities are for some reason all brought together, or through special emulsions. Dust's most interesting quality, though, is that it attracts itself to sentient beings - anything made by humans with thought and observation will attract Dust, such as a ruler, and Dust also attracts itself to people - adults especially, and the wiser the better. When the big reveal comes, "Dust" turns out not to be a substance at all. It's essentially subatomic Angels.
    • That big reveal perhaps justifies the previously odd-if-not-silly convention of referring to particle physics as Experimental Theology.
  • Mood Whiplash - Happens every other chapter in the third book, switching back and forth between the bleak underworld and the world of the lovably alien mulefa.
  • The Multiverse - There may be no limit to the number of separate worlds and universes.
  • Never Was This Universe - Lyra's world. While many differences between our world and hers are clearly just ordinary Alternate History, there are also some altered laws of physics and nature in general - e.g. a fully living sentient daemon of each human being.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the end we learn that every time Will used the knife he created a specter and helped undermine the structural fabric of sentient life. To be fair, this is really not his fault, it was the hundreds of years of casual abuse and neglect of the power that caused the problem.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot - Armored Royal Polar Bear Warriors! (Even the author gleefully admits that this is the coolest thing ever.)
  • Noble Shoplifter: Will insists on doing this in Cittagaze; Lyra is skeptical.
  • The Nothing After Death - The land of the dead isn't exactly nothing, but it is insanely close: just a bleak wasteland with almost no light in which nothing happen. And then there's the Abyss, which really IS nothingness. And of course now people just dissolve after dying.
    • Dissolving is a little inaccurate and incomplete. The spirits more disintegrate and are returned to the universe so that they can be a part of everything again (Nature's spirit recycling service)
    • Or, as the saying goes, ashes to ashes, Dust to Dust.
  • Non-Action Big Bad and Dragon-in-Chief: The Authority and Metatron.
  • One Steve Limit: Did any other non-Scandinavian readers find it confusing that the two panserbjørne (well, the only significant characters among them) are named Iorek Byrnison and Iofur Raknison?
    • This is probably why Iofur Raknison's name was changed to Ragnar Sturlusson in the movie.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Subverted. Lee attempts this by shooting a church flunky in the leg, but nicks the artery and ends up killing him anyway.
    • The most powerful being in the Universe (Metatron) cracks Lord Asriel on the back of the head as hard as it can with a rock, but Asriel still drags him into the Abyss.
  • Only Fatal to Adults: The spectres.
  • Opposite Sex Daemon: Most of the time, a woman's daemon is male and vice versa. People with dæmons of the same sex as themselves are noted to be rare in Northern Lights. Two examples are found in the series (both in Northern Lights): a male servant with a male dog dæmon, and a maid with a hen dæmon. Readers speculate that having a dæmon of the same sex signifies homosexuality or transgenderism. Pullman has stated he isn't sure what it means himelf: "[it] might indicate homosexuality, or it might indicate some other sort of gift or quality, such as second sight. I do not know. But I don't have to know everything about what I write."[1]
  • Our Angels Are Different: Energy Beings made of the sentient particle known as Dust, who look like winged humans (though the second book suggests that this is just how people see them, their real appearance being somewhat akin to architecture, though nowhere near the weird appearance of the Biblical angels).
  • Our Souls Are Different: Indeed, the series could be considered a very long meditation on the nature of the soul (see that trope page for details).
  • Parental Abandonment: Lyra has parental issues in spades (to say more would spoil quite a lot of the dramatic tension). Will's parents both follow this trope (his father has been missing for years) and subvert it (his mother is implicitly mentally ill and his involvement in the larger story begins when he must save her.)
  • Pieces of God
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The Gallivespians, bordering on Killer Rabbit.
  • Planar Champion: Will, and to a lesser extent Lyra.
  • The Power of Legacy: in The Amber Spyglass, Will lets Lyra think that Mrs Coulter was watching over her while some disease kept her asleep, when in reality, Mrs. Coulter was drugging her. He already cares quite deeply for her and is aware that Lyra has very few good memories of Mrs Coulter.
  • The Power of Love: Basically the entire point of The Amber Spyglass. Some controversy emerged over what may or may not have been a depiction of teenage sex, to the point that some US printings of the book were censored. No matter what your interpretation is, though, it appears that snogging saved the multiverse.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Lord Asriel opens up the path to Citagazze at the end of the first book by killing the urchin named Roger. Lyra blames herself for taking Roger to what she thought would be a safe place for both of them.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Panserbjørne (repeat: Armored Polar Bear Warriors!) are a proud warrior race.
  • Punny Name: Lyra = Liar


Q-Z[edit | hide]

  • Rage Against the Heavens
  • Really Seven Hundred Years Old: The witches.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Most of the Anti Villains.
  • Retro Universe: Lyra's world.
  • The Reveal: So damn many...
  • Rule of Symbolism: The dust, the mulefa's wheels, and the daemons are all used as criticism of real-world politics, religion and morality. The daemons are used to represent a human's conscience/soul, and, in turn, their sexual nature. The scene in which Will and Lyra free God from his glass cage is meant to represent the separation of the human idea of God from the political idea of God. And so on. Basically, this series has symbolism in spades.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Tony Makarios.
    • Billy Costa in the movie.
  • Sacrificial Lion: When Lee Scoresby was killed, you knew nobody else was safe.
  • Science Is Bad: Played with. The rise of science and technology across multiple worlds set in motion the course of events that imperils sentient life in the books. However, in the end it seems that, like most things in Pullman's world, science is only as good or bad as whoever is using it.
  • Scry vs. Scry
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: Dust is this.
  • Shipping: And how! There's Lyra/Roger, Lyra/Will, Lyra/Um...Lyra? Or Lyra/Pan. (almost)Absolutely mad, also includes Lyra/Scoresby, Lyra/Billy Costa, AND MORE! Seriously, next there will be a Shipping/HisDarkMaterials page.
  • Shout-Out: The series title is a line taken from Paradise Lost, which is also the origin of the term "golden compass." Frequent references to William Blake also crop up.
  • Shiny Midnight Black: Mrs. Coulter (in the books) is described as having black hair and so is the witch-queen Ruta Skadi. When Will gets his own daemon Kirjava, in the form of a large black cat, her fur is described as being of this color.
  • Significant Anagram: Lord Asriel (and Marisa Coulter) ultimately sacrifice themselves by wrestling the Metatron and dragging him into the Abyss. "Asriel" is an anagram of "Israel" - a Hebrew name commonly interpreted as "struggled with God".
    • It may also be a play on the name Azrael -- The Angel of Death.
  • The Soulsaver - Lyra. She not only frees the severed daemons of Bolvangar and spares the other children there the same fate -- her eventual destiny is to open the World of the Dead to the multiverse, with all its limitless number of souls.
  • Spirit Advisor - Everyone in Lyra's world gets their own spirit advisor in the person of their Dæmons. Daemons come in handy for spying, arguing with and there are several parts where a person was able to utilize the improved senses and/or vantage point provided by their Daemon(birds can get higher, some animals can smell better, some animals have better sight).
  • Steampunk - Sort of. Lyra's world has zeppelins, but its "anbaric power" is simply electricity under another name (the substance amber and electricity get switched - in Lyra's world, they call amber "electrum"). Nuclear power is Atomcraft works in this world, and there are frequent mentions of "gyrocopters" and similar devices.
  • The Starscream Metatron.
  • Subspace Ansible - There is a universe where entire lodestones can be quantum entangled.
  • Sure Why Not / Throw It In: In an interview, Pullman was asked whether the few people who had Daemons of the same gender as themselves were LGBT. He hadn't thought of it, but agreed with the fandom.
    • He's also said that a same-sex Daemon could instead be indicative of some other "gift or quality," like second sight.
  • Synchronization - We see repeatedly and graphically how inconvenient it can be to have a mystical bond with someone. If a Dæmon is too far separated from their human counterpart, they both risk incredible pain, and if they are forcibly and permanently separated, both suffer permanent psychological damage and eventually waste away. The third book explains that there are ways around this. On the other hand, we also see many, many reasons why this sort of bond could be extremely useful.
  • Take That - Phillip Pullman has said that the series was a "response" of sorts to the Christian allegory-resembling books, such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Differs from those books in that Lewis at least claims he didn't originally set out to create allegory and that it worked its way into his books, while Pullman openly stated that he wrote his series to "kill Christianity in the minds of children." Oddly enough, although God is talked about ad nauseum, Pullman never talks about Christ.
  • Talking Animal - Played absolutely straight with the Panserbjørne, intelligent polar bears with thumbs and a talent for metalworking. Lyra's world also features talking foxes and nasty creatures called cliff-ghasts (who have a language of their own).
    • The dæmons are a more obvious, yet ambiguous, example of this trope; although they are not thought of as animals by the humans of Lyra's world, they take the form of animals and would be called that in other worlds.
  • Technically Living Zombie: Originally referenced as a background detail, but becomes relevant late in the first book and then throughout the series. According to Lord Asriel, there's an African tribe which can permanently separate a human from their daemon without killing them - just rendering them a mindless, corpse-seeming slave called a zombi. Later, the General Oblation Board modified this process to create intercision using a Subtle Knife-like guillotine to sever the connection between human and daemon forever. Intercision never worked on children, but the doctors at Bolvangar and Mrs. Coulter's bodyguards/soldiers all underwent intercision successfully, meaning that Mrs. Coulter and by extension the Church essentially had an army of zombies.
  • Teenage Wasteland - Cittagazze (and the rest of that world), where most of the adults have been killed off by Spectres.
  • Thunderbolt Iron - "Sky-Iron" (presumably from meteorites) forms Iorek's (and presumably all the Panserbjørne's) armour.
  • Tough Love
  • Trapped in Another World
  • Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty - Will and Lyra are resourceful young adventurers.
  • Twist Ending - The first book.
  • The Vamp - Mrs. Coulter raises this almost to a superpower.
  • Vaporware - The Book of Dust is creeping into this territory.
  • The War On Straw: Any religious characters are either academics or evil.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist - Lord Asriel talks a good game about ending tyranny, but he does some terrible things in the process. Oddly, few people object to his bloody deeds except for Lyra, and she seems to forgive and forget Asriel's part in Roger's death after the first book. However this could be because Lyra never spends any time in Asriel's company after the first book.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human? - The Panserbjørne are not treated too well by humans. In one of the novellas, a mayoral candidate actually proposes forcibly banishing them from human cities. The main reason for this is because they have no Dæmons, which humans take as proof that they have no soul. Iorek makes it very clear to Lyra that his armor is his soul.
  • Witch Species - Subverted. Witches can breed with human men, and have witch daughters and human sons. They don't feel the cold (and mostly live in the Arctic), they can use magic, and they live to hundreds of years.
    • In the last book, Will's finds out why his father has a daemon. It turns out he entered Lyra's world near a spot that somehow repels daemons, which is hinted to be used as a rite of passage by witches. It ripped his soul out of his body and gave his daemon most of the same properties as a witch's, most notably the ability to be far away from him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse? - The series has a spectacular habit of writing in epic battles involving legions of bad ass combatants like talking polar bears with rocket launchers. And then forgetting about these battles completely. The battle between the bears/Gyptians and the Church is quietly forgotten after the first book. But the absolute worst offender is the third book: the war against the army of God himself is quietly swept under the rug after the author decides that Will & Lyra's romance deserves the spotlight. Sure, the Big Bad dies, but what about the legions of soldiers from an infinite amount of worlds?
    • This is done by design. The story is about Will and Lyra not the epic battles, and their romance is significantly more important to the multiverse than any of the other battles. It is outright stated that Asriel will fail because the people he has gathered together from various worlds will fade and die unless they return to their own.
  • Woman Scorned - The witch Juta Kamainen is furious that the shaman Stanislaus Grumman rejected her romantic advances, and swears that she will kill him. In fact, Grumman is Will Parry's father and was being faithful to his wife in another world.
  • World of Badass: Lord Asriel, Lord Boreal, Mrs. Coulter, Lee Scoresby, Iorek Byrnison, Stanislaus Grumman, Lyra, Will, several Ensemble Darkhorse characters... and everyone gets A Day in the Limelight.
  • World of Ham - It's hard to take some lines in the audio book seriously during the dramatic bits. The actors clearly had fun.
  • World of Symbolism - And HOW!
  • Yaoi Guys - Balthamos and Baruch; one an angel, the other a human uplifted to that status.
    • Well, angels are commonly portrayed as either genderless or as Hermaphrodites.
      • It was never stated they weren't of a different sex at some point in the past.
        • "Man" can refer to humankind, but it's getting a little silly after all these years to deny that Baruch was not a male when he was a human. There's also the implication that Metatron took issue with Baruch for his sexuality while they were both humans. Balthamos is a "nothing", Baruch was a male human.
  • You Are Worth Hell - Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter's mutual fling into the abyss.
  • You Shall Not Pass - Lee Scoresby sacrifices himself to hold off the soldiers at a ravine, so that John Parry could escape safely.
  • Your Soul Is Mine - The Spectres eat your soul, or Daemon if you have one... if you're past puberty, anyway.
  • Your Universe or Mine? - Turns out, aliens to any given universe tend to die pretty quickly, so Lyra and Will stick to their own worlds.
  • Zeppelins from Another World